Darren Woo Hon Fai is the valedictorian this year from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS).
He made headlines for his controversial valedictorian speech where he poked fun of his fellow graduates from the Chinese Division, commenting that that they may not be able to understand English.
Here is a full video of his speech. Watch from the 8:00 minute mark for the highlight:
After reminding everyone to honour thy parents, Darren went on to add these hurtful words: “This is especially so for the Chinese majors who probably have not gotten what I just said in English, 所谓望子成龙，望女成凤, I can speak Mandarin too.”
Trinetta Chong, on the other hand, was a valedictorian in 2011 from my alma mater, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, also from NTU.
At the end of her valedictorian speech, she blurted out the f-word: “We f***ing did it!”
If I am an employer, I will hire Trinetta, but not Darren.
The way I see it, one committed a slip of the tongue in her moment of excitement. Yes, she was wrong, but I can still be friend and work with someone like that. Her biggest mistake was immaturity and not watching her language for vulgarity.
The other one claimed his offending words were not in his original speech, but added on the spot to lighten the mood. To me, this shows this guy has deep-seated discriminatory issues. I cannot imagine myself being a friend with someone like this or working with him.
Potty-mouthed girl, I can accept.
Discriminating boy, I cannot accept.
Both my parents are Chinese-educated and my sister and I grew up speaking Mandarin at home. I only learn the English language when I entered primary one.
My English was not good in primary school and I have to endure the abuse of some really bad English teachers who will take every opportunity to shame and humiliate a group of us by calling us names like “Cheena Biang” and “Sons of Stinky Pau Seller” (I kid you not).
Even up to my ‘O’ levels, my English was still pretty sucky. I was always one of the top student in all my other subjects, scoring As for everything else, except English which totally pulled down my L1R5 score as English is the almighty “L1” that cannot be substituted.
It it with much perseverance that I pushed my language ability to where I am now and I am proud to say that I am effectively bilingual in both Chinese and English, written and spoken. The same goes for my wife, Rachel, who have worked in both Chinese and English newsrooms. We hope to do the same for my son, Asher.
Do you know how hard it is to be proficient in both English and Chinese in Singapore where English tend to be the more common language of use?
I am quite sure many of Darren’s schoolmates from the Chinese division in HSS will be able to speak and write fluently in both Chinese and English, while conversely, many from the other divisions, might encounter some difficulty with the Chinese language or their respective second languages.
Currently, I work in the Chinese newsroom in my day job and I admire my Chinese journalist colleagues who are able to switch easily between Chinese and English for their job requirement.
Does Darren think my Chinese newsroom colleagues cannot understand English too?
Somehow, I think many young people today hold the same attitude as Darren – that Chinese is a “low-class” language that is cool to poke fun at.
A few months earlier, a youngster emailed me to ask about my alma mater, WKWSCI and wrote in the email asking if I know the school environment was “cheena” as the person was from ACJC and was worried that she might not be able to adjust.
I replied her with a long email on how rude it was for her to presume she knows my language preference and use a derogatory word like “cheena” on someone she is seeking advice from. The person apologised profusely after that, but the damage is done.
What about you? What do you think of this whole saga?
This is really interesting as in Australia, most people speak one language. Even if you speak only one other language, even badly, people really admire you. Chinese is lauded as the language of the future here and I’m very surprised that Singaporeans treat it with such derision.
And I quote: “I am quite sure many of Darren’s schoolmates from the Chinese division in HSS will be able to speak and write fluently in both Chinese and English, while conversely, many from the other divisions, might encounter some difficulty with the Chinese language or their respective second languages.”
Aren’t you being pretty biased here? Aren’t you being discriminatory towards those in Darren’s circle as well? By assuming that Darren and others outside of the Chinese division are inadequate in their Chinese/Second Language, you have commited the same discriminatory act towards us. Just because we are not from HSS Chinese, doesn’t mean our chinese is bad. Same goes, doesn’t mean that a person from HSS chinese, he/she is bad in english.
And just to be honest, as an NTU student, yes, I too find NTU very much filled with China nationals as compared to the other local ivies. Its a fact, lets get over it. They will not publish statistics but we know for sure that it is true. But here is where you are mistaken, it is not the Chinese Language that is being ridiculed. It is the Chinese nationals that are seen as low-class. Not the language.
You cant blame them either. First week in NTU and I have already smelt the ‘NTU spirit’ when they come on the bus from their halls. If I were Chinese, which I am not, I too would want to distance myself from them and in the process, it just happens that students are distancing themselves from the language as well. Chinese nationals talk loudly on the bus. Dress ‘differently’ than the normal Singaporeans, and shower less, apparently. It is their culture, right or wrong, it is what they are used to in China, and it is what they bring over here. It is these things that Singaporean Chinese hate and do not wish to be seen as.
By openly discrimination to “Chinese nationals”, you classify yourself on the par with Darren Woo. In a university, you can show your superiority by higher achievement, either academic or in other areas. If you had not failed in the competition to Chinese, you would not need to save your face by disparaging on “different” attire or “laud” voice. Indeed, different people dress differently, and Singaporeans are surely not quiet people, in any sense! If you have to revert to discrimination on such trivia to protect your self-esteem, you’d better shut up to hide your shallowness.
Also I doubt if you can defend your proficiency of your Chinese. A guy who does not respect folks from his grandfather’s land cannot really master the tongue inherited from his grandfather.